500.CC/5–2145: Circular airgram

The Acting Secretary of State to Diplomatic Representatives in the American Republics

For the Ambassador. The following account of the regional arrangements issue at UNCIO is for your background information.

[Page 832]

The question of the relation of regional arrangements to the international organization has passed through two phases at the San Francisco Conference.

In the first phase it was raised by the Russians, with the strong support of the French and the tacit support of the British, in relation to the bilateral pacts negotiated among European states and directed against enemy states in the present war. The original Soviet amendment to Chapter VIII, Section C, of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals stated: “No coercive action may be taken under regional arrangements without the authorization of the Security Council, excepting measures which are provided for in the regional agreements and directed against a renewal of a policy of aggression on the part of the aggressor-states in this war.”

To this amendment the United States presented a counterproposal to which the Soviets after considerable debate finally agreed. That counterproposal read as follows: “No enforcement action should be taken under regional arrangements or by regional agencies without the authorization of the Security Council with the exception of measures against enemy states in this war provided for pursuant to Chapter XII, Paragraph 2, or, in regional arrangements directed against renewal of aggressive policy on the part of such states, until such time as the organization may, by consent of the governments concerned, be charged with the responsibility for preventing further aggression by a state now at war with the United Nations.”

The United States delegation, while not favoring exceptions of this sort to the authority of the Security Council over regional arrangements, nevertheless felt justified in yielding in this instance to the very positive and intransigent stand taken on this point by the Soviets and other interested delegations, since our counter-proposal had definitely tied the exception into the transitional arrangements envisaged in Chapter XII of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals. This accomplished two objects: First, it made perfectly clear that the exception was definitely of a transitional character and would be eliminated as soon as the organization had demonstrated its strength; and second, it limited the exception directly to the treatment of enemy states in the present war, which the United States itself has always held must be a matter to be dealt with by the principal victor powers and not by the international organization. The unanimity of the Big Four on this particular amendment was therefore achieved on May 5, though the French are still not completely satisfied and would have preferred to eliminate the implied time limit on the application of the exception.

An indirect result of the presentation of this four-power amendment was unfortunately to open the second phase of the problem of regional arrangements at the conference by giving a considerable [Page 833] number of the Latin American delegations the impression that European regional arrangements were being removed from the control of the Security Council whereas the much older and better-established regional system of the Western Hemisphere would be subjected to the domination of that Council. They were particularly fearful that, in view of the veto power exercised by each of the permanent members of the Council, a non-American state would be able to prevent enforcement action of any kind under the Act of Chapultepec. Their chief concern of course, though this was not always avowed, was that the Soviet Union might through this means interfere in the internal concerns of the Western Hemisphere and might even go so far as to prevent hemispheric action against an aggressive American state which had fallen under Communist control or influence. Some of the Latin American statesmen became so agitated over this issue that they threatened to withdraw from the conference if their wishes were not met by the adoption of an amendment which would completely exempt enforcement action under the act of Chapultepec from control by the Security Council. The majority, however, while viewing the issue largely from the regional rather than, from the world point of view, nevertheless indicated the willingness to compromise if some substantial step were taken to meet their views.

The United States delegation found itself faced by most difficult alternatives. On the one hand it soon became clear that nearly all of the good neighbors were so aroused over this issue that, if continental harmony and the influence of the United States in the Hemisphere were to be maintained, some concession must be made. On the other hand it was just as clearly recognized that a substantial concession of this sort might render largely inoperative the structure of world organization which was being so painfully erected. It was abundantly clear from informal conversations that the non-American states would not consent to an exception which exempted American regional arrangements from central control while subjecting similar arrangements in other regions to that control. It was also clear that a general exception which made it possible for armed force to be exercised anywhere by any group of states without reference to the Security Council would destroy the international organization as an effective instrument and divide the world into regional spheres of influence.

Various compromises were discussed. The Australians and the French suggested that it might be possible to authorize enforcement action under regional arrangements if the Security Council in a particular case did not find itself able to agree upon effective action on its own account. Others proposed that the veto power be relinquished in the case of the approval by the Council of Regional Enforcement Action. Objections, however, were raised to both of these propositions [Page 834] and the American delegation finally came to the conclusion that the best solution lay in an explicit statement in the charter of that inherent right of individual or collective self-defense which the majority of the delegation had always felt weakened the force of the Latin American apprehensions. The United States delegation therefore devised the following compromise proposal which was to be inserted as a new paragraph 12 at the end of Chapter VIII, Section B.

“Should the Security Council not succeed in preventing aggression, and should aggression occur by any state against any member state, such member state possesses the inherent right to take necessary measures for self-defense. The right to take such measures for self-defense against armed attack shall also apply to understandings or arrangements like those embodied in the Act of Chapultepec, under which all members of a group of states agree to consider an attack against any one of them as an attack against all of them. The taking of such measures shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under this charter to take at any time such action as it may deem necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

When this proposal, however, was placed before the other members of the Big Five, the British reacted very unfavorably, expressing the view that it went too far in yielding to the proponents of regionalism and it would undermine in a dangerous fashion the strength of the international organization. They, therefore, proposed an alternative text which was satisfactory to the American delegation. The text read as follows:

“Nothing in this charter impairs the inherent right of self-defense, either individual or collective, in the event that the Security Council has failed to maintain international peace and security and an armed attack against a member state has occurred. Measures taken in the exercise of this right shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not be in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under this charter to take at any time such action as it may deem necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

In accepting this British draft for a new paragraph at the end of Chapter VIII, Section B, the U.S. delegation also originally intended that there should be inserted in paragraph 1, Chapter VIII, Section C after the words “nothing in the charter should preclude the existence of regional arrangements or agencies” the words “or collective arrangements like that contemplated by the Act of Chapultepec.” It was felt that the explicit mention of the Act of Chapultepec would be a gesture which would be appreciated by the Latin Americans and that it would furthermore serve as a concrete example of the type of beneficent regional arrangement which we had in mind. Though the British reluctantly agreed to the mention of the Act of Chapultepec, [Page 835] the American delegation soon found that the mention of this act in the charter might well lead to strong efforts to mention such other regional arrangements as the Arab League and it was therefore decided to drop the amendment to Chapter VIII, Section C, though it was understood that if this were done the US Senate might adopt a clarifying resolution of reservation on this score.

On May 14 the British draft of the new paragraph 12, Chapter VIII, Section B, together with a US revision of this draft, essentially the same in substance though somewhat different in phrasing, was taken up with the chiefs of the principal Latin American delegations. The general sense of these drafts appeared to be acceptable to the Latin American representatives. They also agreed to the omission of mention in Chapter VIII, Section C, of the Act of Chapultepec. In exchange, however, they asked for three concessions, two minor matters of wording in the Charter and one matter of substance lying outside the scope of the chapter. Matters of wording were (1) the insertion in Chapter VIII, Section A, paragraph 3, where the means of peaceful settlement are enumerated, of a reference to “resort to regional agencies or arrangements” and (2) the strengthening of the last sentence of Chapter VIII, Section C, paragraph 1, by the substitution of the word “support” for the word “encourage” in the provision that the Security Council should encourage settlement of local disputes through regional arrangements.

In addition to these two verbal concessions the Latin American representatives desired some concrete and tangible assurance, which they could present to their governments and people upon their return from San Francisco, that the US Government intends to abide by and to implement the Act of Chapultepec. One suggestion was that the US delegation, possibly in association with the Latin American delegations, might adopt a resolution stating that in their opinion the reference to collective measures of self-defense referred to in Chapter VIII, Section B, paragraph 12, of the charter included those contemplated under inter-American system and specifically the Act of Chapultepec and that this resolution might be included in the report of the delegation to the US Senate and might be embodied in an interpretive reservation to be adopted by the Senate at the time it ratifies the charter. Another suggestion was that President Truman might announce before the close of the San Francisco Conference that there will be held in Washington in September or October a conference of American Foreign Ministers to negotiate a treaty to implement the Act of Chapultepec.

At its meeting of May 15 the US delegation agreed that both of the proposals described in the previous paragraph would be objectionable in that they would appear to cast doubt upon our confidence in the international organization just at the moment, that of its presentation [Page 836] to the Senate, when it is most important that the support of the world organization by the US Government be most explicit and firm. It was agreed at the same time, however, that the Latin-American Governments are entitled to some further assurance that we intend to proceed with the implementation of the Act of Chapultepec as a long-range policy of this government. It was, therefore, agreed, after the President had been consulted by telephone and had approved, that the Latin-American delegations should be told privately by the Secretary, as Secretary of State rather than as Chairman of the US delegation, that it is the intention of the US Government to call a meeting of American foreign ministers in Washington in the fall52 to negotiate a treaty to implement the Act of Chapultepec.

A further meeting with the chiefs of the principal Latin American delegations was held in the afternoon of May 15. The draft of Chapter VIII, Section B, paragraph 12 discussed at this meeting differed slightly from that previously presented in that, in order to eliminate the implication that the Security Council might “fail” to maintain peace and security, the first sentence of the paragraph had been revised to read as follows:

“Nothing in this charter impairs the inherent right of self-defense, either individual or collective, in the event that the Security Council does not maintain international peace and security and that armed attack against a member state occurs.”

The Latin American representatives were at the same time informed of our willingness to make two minor verbal changes referred to above and of the proposal for the calling of an Inter-American Conference. Their reception of this program in its totality was excellent and, while they will still wish to consult a little among themselves, it is now safe to say that this issue at the Conference has been resolved insofar as the Latin Americans are concerned. They asked whether they might immediately convey to their governments the information in regard to the Inter-American Conference and were told that they might do so if it were done privately without any public announcement.

This step having been successfully accomplished, the program was immediately laid before the representatives of the other members of the Big Five. The reaction of the representatives of Great Britain, France and China seemed on the whole to be favorable to the program. The Russian reaction has not yet been forthcoming. The matter, therefore, rests at this point.

Such satisfactory progress having been made, it is hoped that it will be possible to submit the proposed amendments to the charter to the appropriate technical committee of the Conference within the [Page 837] next day or two. There would appear to be no reason to believe that, unless serious Russian opposition emerges, the program substantially as it is described in the preceeding paragraphs should not be successfully carried out.

  1. See vol. ix, section entitled “Proposed Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace and Security in the Continent.”